3. Use proper resistance.
You wouldn’t go to the gym just to look at the equipment, right? And you wouldn’t go outside and get on your bike if it didn’t have a chain on it, right? A bike without a chain isn’t going to get you anywhere, and simply looking at gym equipment rather than actually using it isn’t going to get you any results. The same is true with resistance on an indoor cycling bike. If you don’t turn the dial up a bit, your muscles will be less engaged throughout your workout and as a result, you won’t get as much out of your class.
Depending on the type of cycling class you’re doing, the instructor will use different cues to indicate how much resistance to use. I teach Les Mills RPM and freestyle spin, and the RPM ‘way’ of cueing load is to refer to base resistance and working resistance. The base is the absolute minimum you want to have on the bike at all times. This helps to ensure that injuries are prevented and that the legs are in control of the pedals, not the other way around. Every road (even a flat one) has a little bit of resistance, and the same should be true any time you’re sitting on a spin bike.
Working resistance is typically cued with reference to the beat of the music, but the feeling you’re aiming for is a more noticeable pull in the hamstring. It’s a resistance you should find more challenging, but you should be able to accelerate and race with this load. It’s the one you’d be using on ‘racing’ portions of the workout, and is the fastest your legs will go during the class. If you feel that you’re bouncing around in the saddle when you race or sprint, chances are you haven’t got your working resistance on. Turn the dial up a bit more, engage through your core, and that should solve the problem! If you’re looking for more detail about how to do each of the RPM riding positions properly, check out this breakdown of all the moves on LesMills.com.
4. Trust the instructor.
If the person teaching your class has a good amount of experience, they should be cueing and coaching you throughout so that you:
Giving participants a general idea of what the workout is going to look like and when the big efforts are coming is something I always aim to communicate. I know how annoying it is to be suddenly told to “SPRIIIIIINT!!!” with no indication of how long to do it for. When this happens, it’s only natural to hold back a bit. However, if your instructor tells you that you’ll be sprinting 4 times for 30s each, with 30s breaks in between, it allows you to go all-out on those efforts because you know a recovery is coming.
You’ll probably have to attend the same class a few times before you feel you can trust the person teaching it to give you these cues, but when the trust is established, you’ll feel more comfortable with giving your all and making the most of each hard work phase. For RPM specifically, you shouldn’t be able to make it to the end of the class without hitting the ‘breathless’ point at least a few times. Your instructor will let you know when these opportunities are coming, so make sure you grab ‘em and ride like you stole something!
5. Stay for the cool-down.
I know you’ve got places to go and things to do, but if you can stay to cool down at the end of the class, your body will thank you! It’s really important to make sure your heart rate a chance to come back down and to flush the lactic acid out of your legs before hopping off the bike. Not only does this prevent post-workout dizziness, but it will also help you to ride stronger next time. The stretches at the end of class will aid in your recovery too, and prevent post-workout stiffness. If you really, really have to leave early, at least promise me you’ll do a few hip flexor stretches before you go. One of my favourites is pictured below:
The hip is one of the tightest joints in both cyclists and runners, so give it a little TLC!
So tell me…